When is an energy efficiency measure a “conservatory tax”?
A. When the policy is being carried out by a Conservative-run local council
B. When it’s the work of a Liberal Democrat in Whitehall.
(Answer at the bottom of this blog)
If some of you are a bit bewildered by the latest political row that has erupted over the so-called “conservatory tax”, then join the club.
It centres on a proposal being consulted upon as part of technical changes to building regulations, but importantly, one that forms part of long-awaited plans to make Britain’s buildings greener announced in January by Communities Minister and Liberal Democrat Andrew Stunell. Under the proposed change, existing homes that undertake building works such as extensions, loft and garage extensions would be required to invest in energy efficiency improvements from October 2012 – financed through the Green Deal.
There are around 200,000 extensions carried out every year in the UK and this proposal is seen as a key means of getting people to take up the Green Deal.
So where does the ‘conservatory tax’ come in?
Last week, Conservative MP and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee Tim Yeo told Radio 4’s Today programme that he didn’t believe it was a good idea to “compel” people to invest in energy efficiency when they had applied for planning consent to make an alteration in their home.
Enter the Daily Mail, which jumped on the story as evidence of another tax, this time being imposed on aspiring Brits and their beloved conservatories.
Granny tax, pasty tax, charity tax, conservatory tax – you’re starting to get the picture, right?
Things then start getting a little harder to follow though: senior Tory Ministers Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps – in the same department as Stunell – mobilise to block it. Now even David Cameron has waded in, reportedly describing it “bonkers” and scrapping it.
Is this another sign of a Tory/Lib Dem split on green policy?
The Coalition Government appears to have got itself into ‘another fine mess’ over green policy – and this time Conservatives are openly blaming Liberal Democrats.
But hang on a minute, if Tory Ministers believe this is such an unpopular plan, why did it ever get to see the light of day in the first place?
And did no one tell them about Uttlesford in Essex? According to the Guardian, the Conservative-run council there has been running a so-called “Conservatory tax” since 2007 – apparently, without a single complaint.
It would seem not, nor it would appear has anyone explained to them that scrapping it threatens to blow a big hole in the Green Deal, a flagship Conservative policy and one, supposedly, cherished by the Prime Minister.
I wonder who is going to tell him?